Research Projects

Research Projects

Climate, health and migration solidarity survey

Together with Sharon Baute and Marius Busemeyer I am working on a project that deals with individual perceptions of different aspects of social policy preferences in relation to social solidarity.

The COVID-19 pandemic, the rapid digitization, the proliferation of nonstandard work and the transition towards a green economy are creating new social risks and posing major challenges to European welfare states. In this context, it is of great academic and societal relevance to understand citizens’ preferences towards the future directions of social policies as well as the role the European Union should play in this. Do different socio-economic status groups support the idea of a ‘Social Europe’? Who is deserving of welfare support and how should the financial costs be distributed across members of society? To address these questions, we are fielding a new survey that focuses in particular on trade-offs between policies on climate change, health care and migration as some of the major challenges for welfare states. Specifically, we are collecting representative survey experiments via IPSOS with 6,000 German residents this fall of 2022.

Comparative social citizenship dataset

The Comparative Social Citizenship Dataset (CSCD) lays the empirical groundwork to investigate the development of European social citizenship from 1985 to the present and it includes all EU and OECD countries. The newly-compiled database brings together existing country-year macro data on policies, regulations, laws, social, economic and political conditions relevant to social rights. This dataset’s key measures concern three categories central to the EUSOCIALCIT’s resource-based conception of social rights: (1) policy outputs, including spending and policy-effort measures of policies seeking to foster social rights; (2) outcomes, societal conditions like poverty and inequality relevant to the societal value-added of social rights; and 3) resources on which citizens and policymakers draw that drive and give policy force to social rights. Based on analyses of the CSCD macro-level measures of such conditions, the project develops important insights into a resource-based conception of social rights in Europe.

More details about this dataset and some preliminary analysis are presented in this paper:

Eick, Gianna M., Burgoon, Brian & Busemeyer, Marius R. (2021). Measuring social citizenship in social policy outputs, resources and outcomes across EU member states from 1985 to the present. EUSOCIALCIT working-paper series. Link | PDF

Conceptualizing the multi-level governance of a supranational welfare state

Together with Zhen Im and Janine Leschke, I am currently co-editing a special issue „Towards Social Europe? Conceptualizing the multi-level governance of a supranational welfare state“ for the Journal of Social Policy & Administration. This special issue will be published in the course of 2024.

National welfare states have long been in crisis. This is not only linked to trends such as technological change, demographic transitions and fiscal retrenchment, but also to exogenous shocks such as the Great Recession, the COVID-19 pandemic, or the war in Ukraine. As such, many argue that national welfare states are only partly equipped to address the growing and multifaceted socioeconomic problems of today, such as growing inequality. In this regard, the European Union (EU) created ‘Social Europe’ – a relatively new dimension of the EU that aims to foster better socioeconomic outcomes for European citizens. In principle, Social Europe can complement national welfare states by helping them stimulate economic growth, progress and innovation, and concurrently improve social rights across member states. Through flagship initiatives like the European Pillar of Social Rights, guiding instruments like the Social Investment Package, legislation like the Work-Life Balance Directive and massive funding instruments such as the Next Generation EU, the EU can influence and direct the social policies and legislation of member states. However, Social Europe has often been criticized as lacking teeth because of its frequent soft law character. Thus, the future of this globally first attempt at shaping a supranational welfare state is still uncertain.

While Social Europe generally enjoys high levels of support among citizens, policymakers and politicians, tensions around the multi-level governance limit its true potential. For example, the EU relies on unanimity voting in sensitive policy areas which is difficult to achieve with the 27 member states pursuing different interests and having different demands. Similarly, the EU level social partners who are key actors when it comes to shaping Social Europe often disagree profoundly on overall aims, focus or instruments regarding specific policy initiatives. Furthermore, citizens from different socio-demographic groups, regions and countries may have different or even clashing expectations of European-wide social policies. This special issue aims to identify and distinguish obstacles and opportunities within the multi-level governance framework of Social Europe. While other research usually focuses on single governance levels – particularly member states or citizens – our special issue takes a more holistic approach. This special issue analyses these tensions across different levels: EU institutions, member states, regional authorities, social partners, political parties, industrial sectors, workers as well as citizens.

Hence, this special issue proposal offers a comprehensive and timely analysis on whether Social Europe can be a viable strategy to help national welfare states overcome the challenges which they currently face, and if so, how. Three interconnected questions will be addressed in this special issue:

  1. How do different governance levels shape Social Europe?
  2. What are the obstacles and opportunities for Social Europe on these different governance levels and across countries?
  3. How can the tensions regarding the scope and direction of Social Europe be reconciled?

The causes and consequences of welfare state opposition

Together with Benjamin Leruth, I am currently co-editing a special issue „A farewell to welfare? The causes and consequences of welfare state opposition“ for the Journal of European Social Policy. This special issue will be published in the course of 2023.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the flaws in European welfare states, which can be an opportunity to stimulate their renewal and reinforcement after three decades of cuts and privatization that have left many behind. In fact, reactivating welfare solidarity might be Europe’s best chance to reconcile social cohesion and economic resilience in times of crisis and recovery. However, if welfare states are to successfully transition to a more solitary and sustainable approach, there is an urgent need to understand and address existing and emerging patterns of welfare state opposition, which we define as an umbrella term covering different forms of protest towards existing welfare policies provided by the state. Three of such policy paradigms stand out. The first one is welfare chauvinism, i.e., the preference to grant entitlements to rights and access to welfare state benefits only to the members of one’s own national/ethnic community. The second one is welfare populism, namely the combination of egalitarianism and a critical view pertaining to the welfare state. The third one is welfare Euroscepticism, according to which the process of European integration constitutes a threat to social security.

While the relevance and success of these three policy paradigms significantly vary between countries, their causes and consequences on the future of the welfare state and liberal democracy remain understudied. Furthermore, existing studies focus on specific and separate sets of public actors and how they shape welfare policy, such as the general public, the media, policy-makers, local politicians, political parties, courts, and the European Commission. This project is the first of its kind to focus on these policy paradigms and actors as a whole, in order to offer a comprehensive and timely analysis of new challenges European welfare states face, and how resilient they may or may not be to welfare state opposition in the public sphere.

Three interconnected questions will be addressed in this special issue:

  1. How and why do different public actors advocate welfare state opposition?
  2. What role does welfare state opposition play in shaping welfare policy across Europe?
  3. How can we explain the varying influence of welfare state opposition across Europe?

The evolution of political attitudes

I am developing refined measures using Bayesian latent variables of political attitudes (towards welfare states, EU, migration) across countries, time, policies, and socioeconomic groups (using existing data I have already collected for the CSCD). My previous publications on this topic show, among others, upward convergence in the support for social investment policies and particularly among higher socioeconomic status groups because of the increasing market logic in EU member states.

The first steps of this endeavor are presented in this paper:

Eick, Gianna M., Busemeyer, Marius R. & Burgoon, Brian (2022). 35 years of public opinion surveys and European social citizenship: what can we conclude? EUSOCIALCIT working-paper series. Link | PDF

The future of European social citizenship

Here is the project website, including new events and publications.

I work on the €3.3 million EU Horizon 2020 project entitled “The Future of European Social Citizenship” (EUSOCIALCIT) as a Postdoctoral Researcher. The project studies the state of social rights in Europe and the role of the EU in the future development of social rights. Six teams in Europe are developing a resource-based, multi-level concept of social rights at EU, national and local levels. In addition, the project identifies the weak points of the institutions and examines the attitudes of the citizens. By analyzing current realities and alternative policy options, the project will provide new indicators and feasibility studies on social investment, working conditions, minimum income protection and housing.

For this project, I work in a team with Brian Burgoon and Marius Busemeyer. We review, consolidate and valorize existing large-scale quantitative research on policy outputs, outcomes, resources and preferences concerning social rights, and enrich this research through focus groups in four EU member states: Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain. We collected the focus groups in Spring 2022 and they help us to deepen the understanding of citizens’ perceptions about, attitudes towards, and demands regarding European social citizenship. Overall, our research in this project combines the in-depth examination of the subjective dimension of social rights with the quantitative analysis of policy outputs and outcomes for all EU member states over the past four decades, with a focus on recent crises.

Welfare chauvinism across different policies

Together with Christian Albrekt Larsen, I collected the Welfare State Attitude Survey which was carried out simultaneously in Denmark, Germany and the UK. The aim of the cross-national project was to improve the understanding of variances in welfare chauvinism, i.e. public attitudes excluding migrants from the welfare state, across a range of different welfare policies, particularly different social investment and compensatory policies. Furthermore, the project focused on attitudes towards welfare access for one specific migrant group, namely Eastern European workers. Hereby, the project addressed several of the disadvantages of the European Social Survey, such as the general question wording of ‘benefits and services’ for welfare chauvinism that did not allow us to examine what respondents thought of exactly. The project was guided by two main research questions:

  1. Firstly, are there variances in welfare chauvinism across a range of different welfare policies?
  2. Are there variances in the impact of economic competition and cultural norms on welfare chauvinism across a range of different welfare policies?

We have published parts of the answers to these questions in the following article:

Eick, Gianna M., & Larsen, Christian A. (2022). Welfare chauvinism across benefits and services. Journal of European Social Policy, 32(1), 19-32. Link | PDF

My forthcoming book on welfare chauvinism is further examining this data, we have more work under review and I am currently putting this line of research forward in a project I call “Social investment and migration in Europe”.